Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Task

1) From "Pirke Avos," Chapter 2, Mishnas 20-21

Rabbi Tarfon said: The day is short, the task is great, the laborers are lazy, the wage is abundant and the master is urgent.

He used to say: It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task. Yet, you are not free to desist from it. If you have studied much in the Torah much reward will be given you, for faithful is your employer who shall pay you the reward of your labor. And know that the reward for the righteous shall be in the time to come.

2) From "The Middle Years," by Henry James (1893)

“A second chance — that’s the delusion. There never was to be but one. We work in the dark — we do what we can — we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art."

Friday, July 30, 2010

REPOST: A nervous wild thing

1. From "The Fox," by D.H. Lawrence (1921)

"She lowered her eyes, and suddenly saw the fox. He was looking up at her. His chin was pressed down, and his eyes were looking up. They met his eyes. And he knew her. She was spellbound — she knew he knew her. So he looked into her eyes, and her soul failed her. He knew her, and he was not daunted.

"She struggled, confusedly she came to herself, and saw him making off, with slow leaps over some fallen boughs — slow, impudent jumps. Then he glanced over his shoulder, and ran smoothly away. She saw his brush held smooth like a feather, she saw his white buttocks twinkle. And he was gone, softly, soft as the wind."

2: From “Dictation,” by Cynthia Ozick, 2008

“From the alley below her bedroom window — the flittering panes that sheathed her in a dusky mist of almost-light — Lilian heard a sharp clatter: a metal trash barrel overturned. The fox again, scavenging. A sly fox out of a fable, a fox that belonged in a wood—but there are sightings of foxes in the outlying streets of London, and once, coming home in the winter night from her mother’s, she had glimpsed a brown streak under the lamppost; and then it was gone. And another time, in the early morning — the woman and the animal, both of them solitary, two stragglers separated from the pack, transfixed, staring, panicked into immobility. The fox’s eyes were oddly lit, as if glittering pennies had got into its sockets; its ears stood straight up; its white tail hung low, like a shamed flag; its flanks trembled. A nervous wild thing. It twitched the upper muscle of its long snout—she saw the zigzag glint of teeth, the dangerous grin of ambush. How beautiful it was!"

3: Wes Anderson on Fresh Air, Nov. 23, 2009

“Meryl Streep, she told me that she had a moment just before we started recording this where she saw a fox on her doorstep in England, and the fox looked up and saw her, and they just stared at each other for five minutes. And she sort of had this sort of mesmerizing moment with this animal, and she said she sort of thought about that.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

March toward a goal

1) From “November,” by Gustave Flaubert (1910)

“What are we supposed to do here on earth? What should we dream of? What should we build? Tell me, then, you who find life entertaining, you who march towards a goal and torment yourself to achieve some particular aim!”

2) From “The Boy with the Thorn in his Side,” by The Smiths (1985)

“And when you want to live, how do you start? Where do you go? Who do you need to know?”

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


1) From “Strait is the Gate,” by Andre Gide (1909)

“I have torn up all the pages that seemed to me to be well written. (I know what I mean by this.) I ought to have torn up all those in which there was any question of him. I ought to have torn them all up. I could not.

“And already, because I tore up those few pages, I had a little feeling of pride… a pride that I should laugh at if my heart were not so sick.

“It really seemed as though I had done something meritorious, and as though what I had destroyed had been of some importance!”

2) From “The Way of Man,” by Martin Buber (1950)

“A hasid of the Rabbi of Lublin once fasted from one Sabbath to the next. On Friday afternoon he began to suffer such cruel thirst that he thought he would die. He saw a well, went up to it, and prepared to drink. But instantly he realized that because of the one brief hour he had still to endure, he was about to destroy the work of the entire week. He did not drink and went away from the well. Then he was touched by a feeling of pride for having passed this difficult test. When he became aware of it, he said to himself, ‘Better I go and drink then let my heart fall prey to pride.’ He went back to the well, but just as he was going to bend down to draw water, he noticed that his thirst had disappeared. When the Sabbath had begun, he entered his teacher’s house. ‘Patchwork!’ the rabbi called to him, as he crossed the treshhold.”

Saturday, May 08, 2010

A similar vibe

1) “Reelin’ In The Years,” by Steely Dan (1972)

2) “The Boys Are Back In Town,” by Thin Lizzy (1976)

3) “So It Goes,” by Nick Lowe (1976)

Saturday, May 01, 2010

One's best powers

1) From “The Hound of Heaven,” by Francis Thompson (1893)

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat--and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet--
"All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."

2) Saul Bellow, in a letter to Alfred Kazin, (March 25, 1944)

“The rest is a hash, a mishmash for which I deserve to be mercilessly handled. But it’s so hard now to find a way to use one’s best powers. What can be done? Isaac [Rosenfeld] labors with the same difficulty. He has not reached the level where he can thunder. Like myself he is still somewhere in the trees. In the trees one rustles. You know whence thunder comes.”

3) From “Hounds of Love,” by Kate Bush (1985)

It’s in the trees
It’s coming

When I child
running in the night
afraid of what might be
hiding in the dark
hiding in the street
and of what was following me

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A life of its own

1) David Byrne on Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information (2003)

"I began this project making fun of the iconography of PowerPoint, which wasn't hard to do, but soon realized that the pieces were taking on lives of their own. This whirlwind of arrows, pointing everywhere and nowhere — each one color-coded to represent God knows what aspects of growth, market share, or regional trends — ends up capturing the excitement and pleasant confusion of the marketplace, the everyday street, personal relationships, and the simultaneity of multitasking. Does it really do all that? If you imagine you are inside there it does."

2) Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal on Power Point (2010)

“When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war."

Monday, April 19, 2010

The amazing thing

1) From “Solar,” by Ian McEwan (2010)

“The silence in the room was not so much stunned as embarrassed. Meredith stared helplessly as Beard brought his fist down hard on the table. ‘So come on. Tell me. Let’s hear you apply Heisenberg to ethics. Right plus wrong over the square roots of two. What the hell does it mean? Nothing!'

“Barry Pickett intervened to move the discussion on.

“That was an isolated discordant note. What was memorable and surprising came every evening, usually late on, in the bright tones of a marching brass band or the sound of massed voices in unison, elated in common purpose and obliterating for a while all disappointment, all bitterness. Beard would not have believed it possible that he would be in a room drinking with so many seized by the same particular assumption, that is was art in its highest forms — poetry, sculpture, dance, abstract music, conceptual art — that would lift climate change as a subject, glid it, palpate it, reveal all the horror and lost beauty and awesome threat and inspire the public to take thought, take action of deamd it of others. He sat in silent wonder. Idealism was so alien to his nature that he could raise an objection.”

2) From “Art Made at the Speed of the Internet: Don’t Say ‘Geek’; Say ‘Collaborator’” by Randy Kennedy in the New York Times (April 18, 2010)

“When Robert Rauschenberg and a buttoned-down Bell Labs engineer named Billy Kluver began thinking, in the mid-1960s, about ways that people from the world of technology could help artists make art, Mr. Kluver surveyed the mighty gulf between the two groups and almost thought better of the idea. ‘I was scared,’ he said once in an interview. ‘The amazing thing was that it’s possible for artists and scientists to talk together at all.’”

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A leafy afterlife

1) “Red Virigina Creeper,” by Edvard Munch (1898-1900)

2) “Creeper,” by John Updike (December 2008)

With what stoic delicacy does
Virginia creeper let go:
the feeblest tug brings it down
a sheaf of leaves kite-high,
as if to say, To live is good
but not to live—to be pulled down
with scarce a ripping sound,
still flourishing, still
stretching toward the sun—
is good also, all photosynthesis
, quite quits. Next spring
the hairy rootlets left unpulled
snake out a leafy afterlife
up that same smooth-barked oak.

Monday, April 12, 2010

You are in it

1) From the episode “The Gold Violin,” Mad Men (Sept. 7, 2008)

image by Dyna Moe

“I don’t think it’s supposed to be explained.”

“I’m an artist, okay? It must mean something.”

“Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you’re just supposed to experience it. Cause when you look at it, you do feel something. Right? It’s like looking into something very… deep. You could fall in.”

“That’s true… Did someone tell you that?”

“How could someone tell you that?”

“This is pointless. Let’s go.”

2) From “Escape Artist,” by John Lahr (April 12, 2010)

"The Red Studio," by Henri Matisse

"For a month in 1949, Rothko went to the Museum of Modern Art to stand in front of Matisse’s 'The Red Studio,' which the museum had newly acquired. Looking at it, he said, 'you became that color, you became totally saturated with it.' Rothko turned his transcendental experience into an artistic strategy; his work demanded surrender to the physical sensation of color. 'Compressing his feelings into a few zones of color,' Rosenberg wrote, 'he was at once dramatist, actor, and audience of his self-negation.' Rothko escaped from the hell of personal chaos into the paradise of color. 'To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience,' he said. 'However, you paint the large picture, you are in it.'"

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Paler and Paler

1) From “The Long Goodbye,” directed by Robert Altman (1973)

2) From “Friends,” by C.K. Williams, Collected Poems (2007)

My friend Dave knew a famous writer who used to have screw-
drivers for breakfast.
He'd start with half gin and half juice and the rest of the day he'd
sit with the same glass
in the same chair and add gin. The drink would get paler and
paler, finally he'd pass out.
Every day was the same. Sometimes when I'm making milk for
the baby, cutting the thick,
sweet formula from the can with sterilized water, the baby, hun-
gry again, still hungry,
rattling his rickety, long-legged chair with impatience, I think of
that story.
Dave says the writer could talk like a god. He'd go on for hours on
the same thought.
In his books, though, you'd never find out why he drove so hard
toward his death.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

That notoriously uncomfortable bed

1) From “On Self Respect,” by Joan Didion (1961)

"To do without self-respect, on the other hand, is to be an unwilling audience of one to an interminable documentary that deals one’s failings, both real and imagined, with fresh footage spliced in for every screening. There’s the glass you broke in anger, there’s the hurt on X’s face; watch now, this next scene, the night Y came back from Houston, see how you muff this one. To live without self-respect is to lie awake some night, beyond the reach of warm milk, the Phenobarbital, and the sleeping hand on the coverlet, counting up the sins of commissions and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promises subtly broken, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice, or carelessness. However long we postpone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously uncomfortable bed, the one we make ourselves. Whether or not we sleep in it depends, of course, on whether or not we respect ourselves."

2) From “Anything You Want,” by Spoon (2001)

You're at your best you got the guns turned a hundred eighty degrees
and finding out if it adds all up right.
We go through all the same lines or sell out to appease,
but go to sleep in a bed of lies.
I made my own more than once or twice.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Dance

1) "Death and Love," by Edvard Munch (1894)

2) "Gaucho," Steely Dan, designed by Suzanne Walsh (1980)

3) "Blue Tango," by Jules Feiffer (2004)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Learn its language and speak it

1) From “Intuition,” by Feist (2007)

And in came a heatwave/
A merciful save/
You choose, you chose/
Poetry over prose

A map is more unreal
than where you've been
or how you feel.

2) From “70 Million” by Hold Your Horses! (2010)

And it hardly looked like a novel at all.
I hardly look like a hero at all.
And I’m sorry you didn’t publish this.
And you were white as snow. I was white as a sheet.

When you came down in this black dress.
In your mom’s black maternity dress.
And so,
though it hardly looked like a novel at all,
and the city treats me, it treats me to you,
and a cup of coffee for you.
I should learn its language and speak it to you.

3) From "Ever Greenberg," by Richard Brody, The Front Row (March 29, 2010)

"There are two ideal durations for a feature film: sixty-three minutes, which is an hour of setup and a brief tag of a wrap-up; and three hours, of which the first hour of setup is followed by two of working-out. The ninety-minute length (or its modern variety, the two-hour version, which includes more backstory) is constructed on the artifice of a plot mechanism that brings lots of plot threads together in an accelerating dénouement. It worked in an age of abstraction—an age when movies themselves, made largely on studio sets with the help of an unprecedented battery of theatrical paraphernalia, achieved an extraordinary simulation of specifics through remarkably artificial means. The stories that studios set in motion were equally abstract, relying on situations that had the built-in necessities of social conventions that themselves ran along more or less unchallenged. Classic Hollywood storytelling bought its efficiency at the price of all it excluded or filtered out, and its ingeniously constructed stories were less the cause of that exclusion than the effect of a society that was hardly inclusive.

"Romantic comedy has become boiled down to its essence: two people are thrown together and sometimes it’s funny."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

All the ones who really love you

1) "When You Are Old," by William Butler Yeats (1893)

When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face among a crowd of stars.

2) From “Young Bride,” by Midlake (2006)

My young bride,
Why are your shoulders like that
of a tired old woman?
Like a tired old woman?

My young bride,
why are your fingers like that
of the hedge in winter?
Of the hedge in winter?

Polonaise in winter
Snowshoes and hunters
Carry the goods in for you
Darkness and forest
Grant you the longest
Face made for porridge and stew

My young bride,
why aren't you moving at all,
helps to make the day seem shorter
helps to make the day seem shorter

My young bride,
Why aren't you keeping with you
all the ones who really love you,
all the ones who really love you.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

We can change the world, my love

1) From “Peace Like a River,” by Paul Simon (1972)

Peace like a river ran through the city
long past the midnight curfew.
We sat starry-eyed.
We were satisfied.
And I remember misinformation followed us like a plague.
Nobody knew from time to time
if the plans were changed.

You can beat us with wires.
You can beat us with chains.
You can run out your rules,
but you know you can't outrun the history train.
I seen a glorious day.

2) From “Neighborhood,” by David Byrne (2001)

The people feel so good.
Say boy, say girl.
All in my neighborhood.
Say boy, say girl.

We got peace, love and monkey business
Gonna reach the very top
There'll be pride, hope and Sunday mornings
All the things I'm thinking of.
We could change the world, my love.
In the night while we are sleeping
I was in my neighborhood.

Monday, March 22, 2010

But it's coming

1) From “Pirate Jenny,” sung by Nina Simone (1964)

You people can watch while I'm scrubbing these floors
And I'm scrubbin the floors while youre gawking
Maybe once ya tip me and it makes ya feel swell
In this crummy southern town
In this crummy old hotel
But you'll never guess to who youre talkin.
No. you couldn't ever guess to who youre talkin.

Then one night there's a scream in the night
And you'll wonder who could that have been
And you see me kinda grinnin while I'm scrubbin
And you say, "What's she got to grin?"
I'll tell you.

There's a ship
The black freighter
With a skull on its masthead
Will be coming in

2) From “Keep the Car Running,” by The Arcade Fire (2007)

There's a weight that's pressing down
Late at night you can hear the sound
Even the noise you make when you sleep
Can't swim across a river so deep
They know my name cause I told it to them
But they don't know where
and they don't know when
It's coming, when it's coming

There's a fear I keep so deep
Knew its name since before I could speak
They know my name cause I told it to them
But they don't know where and they don't know
When its coming, oh when but its coming

Keep the car running

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In and of itself

1.a) Fade out to “Your Love is Like the Morning Sun,” by Al Green (1973)

Love is the morning sun
shining so brightly
it’s me that’s missing your love

I’m tired of being alone
I’m still in love with you
Let’s stay together

1.b) First six tracks of “Al Green’s Greatest Hits,” by Al Green (1975)

1. "Tired of Being Alone"
2. "Call Me (Come Back Home)"
3. "I'm Still in Love With You"
4. "Here I Am (Come and Take Me)"
5. "Love and Happiness"
6. "Let's Stay Together"

2.a) Third verse of “The Beast and Dragon, Adored,” by Spoon (2005)

Where did you get for so long
I been learning my scene
I been watching my friends move away
I summon my love back to me
And I went down by the seawall
That's when I knew, knew they never got you

2.b) Side B tracklisting of “Gimme Fiction,” by Spoon (2005)

7. "I Summon You"
8. "The Infinite Pet"
9. "Was It You?"
10. “They Never Got You"
11. "Merchants of Soul"

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On dark invisible wings

1) From “The Blind Assassin” by Margaret Atwood (2000)

“Now she imagines him dreaming. She imagines him dreaming of her, as she is dreaming of him. Through a sky the colour of wet slate they fly toward each other on dark invisible wings, searching, searching, doubling back, drawn by hope and longing, baffled by fear. In their dreams they touch, they intertwine, it’s more like a collision, and that is the end of the flying. They fall to earth, fouled parachutes, botched and cindery angels, love streaming out behind them like torn silk. Enemy groundfire comes up to meet them.”

2) “Define dancing” from “WALL-E” (2008)

Friday, March 05, 2010

As if you had made your life

1) Final lines of “The Exile’s Return,” by Robert Lowell (1946)

…You will not see
Strutting children or meet
The peg-leg and reproachful chancellor
With a forget-me-not in his button-hole
When the unseasoned liberators roll
Into the Market Square, ground arms before
The Rathaus; but already lily-stands
Burgeon the risen Rhineland, and a rough
Cathedral lifts its eye. Pleasant enough,
Voi ch’entrate, and your life is in your hands.

2) Final paragraph of “The Happiest I’ve Been,” by John Updike (January 3, 1959)

“When we came into the tunnel country, the flicker and hollow amplification stirred Neil awake. He sat up, the mackinaw dropping to his lap, and lit a cigarette. A second after the scratch of his match the moment occurred of which each following moment was a slight diminution, as we made the long irregular descent toward Pittsburgh. There were many reasons for my feeling so happy. We were on our way. I had seen a dawn. This far, Neil could appreciate, I had brought us safely. Ahead, a girl waited who, if I asked, would marry me, but first there was a long trip; many hours and towns interceded between me and that encounter. There was the quality of the 10 a.m. sunlight as it existed in the air ahead of the windshield, filtered by the thin overcast, blessing irresponsibility — you felt you could slice forever through such a cool pure element — and springing, by implying how high these hills had become, a wide spreading pride: Pennsylvania, your state - as if you had made your life. And there was knowing that twice since midnight a person had trusted me enough to fall asleep beside me.”

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The space to say whatever I like

1) From “The Blind Assassin” by Margaret Atwood (2000)

“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.”

2) From “Change Clothes” by Jay-Z (2003)

I ain’t a New Jack
nobody gon Wesley Snipe me
It’s less than likely,
move back
Let I breathe
Jedi knight
The more space I get the better I write
Oh, never I write,
but, if,
ever I write
I need the space to say whatever I like.
Now just change clothes, then go.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hit the soft spot in my heart

1) From “The Book I Read,” by Talking Heads (1977)

I’m embarrassed to admit it hit the soft spot in my heart
When I found out you wrote the
book I read so

Take my shoulders as they touch your arms I’ve
Got little cold chills but I feel alright the
book I read was in your eyes oh oh

2) From “Fiction,” by Alice Munro (2009)

“Your name?”
“Just Joyce will be fine.”
Her time is passing so quickly.
“You were born in Rough River?”
“No,” says Christie O’Dell with some slight displeasure, or at least some diminishing of cheer. “I did live there for a time. Shall I put the date?”
Joyce retrieves her box. At Le Bon Chocolatier they did sell chocolate flowers, but not lilies. Only roses and tulips. So she had bought tulips, which were not actually unlike lilies. Both bulbs.
“I want to thank you for ‘Kindertotenlieder,’” she says so hastily that she almost swallows the long word. “It means a great deal to me. I brought you a present.”
“Is that a wonderful story.” The saleswoman takes the box. “I’ll just hang on to this.”
“It isn’t a bomb,” says Joyce with a laugh. “It’s chocolate lilies. Actually tulips. They didn’t have lilies so I got tulips, I thought they were the next best thing.”
She notices that the saleswoman is not smiling now but taking a hard look at her. Christie O’Dell says, “Thank you.”
There is not a scrap of recognition in the girl’s face. She doesn’t know Joyce from years ago in Rough River or two weeks ago at the party. You couldn’t even be sure that she had recognized the title of her own story. You would think she had nothing to do with it. As if it was just something she wriggled out of and left on the grass.
Christie O’Dell sits there and writes her name as if that is all the writing she could be responsible for in this world.
“It’s been a pleasure to chat with you,” says the saleswoman, still looking at the box which the girl at Le Bon Chocolatier has fixed with curly yellow ribbon.
Christie O’Dell has raised her eyes to greet the next person in line, and Joyce at last has the sense to move on, before she becomes an object of general amusement and her box, God knows, possibly an object of interest to the police.

Walking up Lonsdale Avenue, walking uphill, she feels flattened, but gradually regains her composure. This might even turn into a funny story that she would tell someday. She wouldn’t be surprised.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Deliberate Deceit

1) From “Enduring Love” by Ian McEwan (1997)

“I spent the afternoon in the reading room of the London Library, looking up some of Darwin’s more obscure contemporaries. I wanted to write about the death of anecdote and narrative in science, my idea being that Darwin’s generation was the last to permit itself the luxury of storytelling in published articles. Here was a letter to Nature dated 1904, a contribution to a long-running correspondence about consciousness in animals, in particular whether higher mammals like dogs could be said to have awareness of the consequences of their actions. The writer, one Mr. –––––, has a close friend whose dog favored a particular comfortable chair near the library fire. Mr. ––––– witnessed an occasion after dinner when he and his friend had retired there for a glass of port. The dog was shooed from its chair and the master sat down in its place. After a minute or two sitting in contemplative silence by the fire, the dog went to the door and whined to be let out. Its master obligingly rose and crossed the room, whereupon the pooch darted back and took possession once more of the favored place. For a few seconds it wore about its muzzle a look of undisguised triumph.

“The writer concluded that he dog must have had a plan, a sense of the future, which it attempted to shape by the practice of a deliberate deceit. And its pleasure in success must have been mediated by an act of memory. What I liked here was how the power and attractions of narrative had clouded judgment. By any standards of scientific inquiry, the story, however charming, was nonsense. No theory evinced, no terms defined, a meaningless sample of one, a laughable anthropomorphism. It was easy to construe the account in a way that would make it compatible with an automaton, or a creature doomed to inhabit a perpetual present: ousted from its chair, it takes the next best place, where it basks (rather than schemes) until it becomes aware of a need to urinate, then goes to the door as it has been trained to do, suddenly notices that the prized position is vacant again, forgets for the moment the signal from its bladder, and returns to take possession, the look of triumph being nothing more than the immediate expression of pleasure, or a projection in the mind of the observer.”

2) Fu Manchu, from Radio Lab (01-25-2010)

“In our last episode of Radiolab, Animal Minds, we asked whether it was possible for one animal to know what is going on in another animal’s mind. For us, it was a really about whether we, as humans, can really share a meaningful moment with an animal. In this podcast, we take that question a step further. Can an animal know what’s in our heads so well that they can manipulate and deceive us? To answer that question, reporter Ben Calhoun took us back to the 1960s to tell the story of a showdown between zookeeper Jerry Stones and a wily orangutan named Fu Manchu. Then, to help us get a grip on the science behind animals and deception, Ben talks to primatologist and orangutan expert Rob Shumaker of the Great Ape Trust.”

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Times that we met/ Before we met

1) From “Where or When” by Rodgers and Hart (1937)

It seems we stood and talked like this before
We looked at each other the same way then
But I can't remember where or when

The clothes you're wearing are the clothes you wore
The smile you are smiling you were smiling then
But I can't remember where or when

Some things that happen for the first time
Seem to be happening again

And so it seems that we have met before
And laughed before and loved before
But who knows where or when?

2) From “The Mystery Zone” by Spoon (2010)

Picture yourself
Set up for good in a whole other life
In the mystery zone

Make us a house
Some far away town
Where nobody will know us well
Where your dad's not around
And all the trouble you look for all your life
You will find it for sure
In the mystery zone

Times that we met
Before we met
Times that we met
We'll go there
To the mystery zone
Ah the mystery zone

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Shirt cardboards

1) From "Franny and Zooey," by J.D. Salinger, (1961)

"With his face in his hands and his handkerchief headgear drooping low over his brow, Zooey sat at Seymour's old desk, inert, but not asleep, for a good twenty minutes. Then, almost in one movement, he removed the support for his face, picked up his cigar, stowed it in his mouth, opened the left-hand bottom drawer of the desk, and took out, using both hands, a seven- or eight-inch-stack of what appeared to be — and were — shirt cardboards. He placed the stack before him on the desk and began to turn the cards over, two or three at a time. His hand stayed only once, really, and then quite briefly.

"The cardboard that he stopped at had been written on in February, 1938. The handwriting, in blue-lead pencil, was his brother Seymour's:

"My twenty-first birthday. Presents, presents, presents. Zooey and the baby, as usual, shopped lower Broadway. They gave me a fine supply of itching powder and a box of three stink bombs. I'm to drop the bombs in the elevator at Columbia or 'someplace very crowded' whenever I get a good chance.

"Several acts of vaudeville tonight for my entertainment. Les and Bessie did a lovely soft-shoe on sand swiped by Boo-Boo from the urn in the lobby. When they were finished, B. and Boo-Boo did a pretty funny imitation of them. Les nearly in tears. The baby sang 'Abdul Abulbul Amir.' Z. did the Will Mahoney exit Les taught him, ran smack into the bookcase and was furious. The twins did B.'s and my old Buck & Bubbles imitation. But to perfection. Marvellous. In the middle of it, the doorman called up on the housephone and asked if anybody was dancing up there. A Mr. Seligman on the fourth—

"There Zooey quit reading. He gave the stack of cardboards a solid-sounding double tap on the desk surface, as one taps a deck of cards, then dropped the stack back into the bottom drawer and closed the drawer."

2) From "The Puttermesser Papers," by Cynthia Ozick, (1997)

"Puttermesser went on studying. In law school they called her a grind, a competitive-compulsive, an egomaniac out for aggrandizement. But ego was no part of it; she was looking solve something, she did not know what. At the back of the linen closet she found a stack of her father's old shirt cardboards (her mother was provident, stingy: in kitchen drawers Puttermesser still discovered folded squares of used ancient waxed paper, million-creased into whiteness, cheese-smelling, nesting small unidentifiable wormlets); so behind the riser pipe in the bathroom Puttermesser kept weeks' worth of Sunday Times crossword puzzles stapled to these laundry boards and worked them indiscriminately. She played chess against herself, and was always victor over the color she had decided to identify with. She organized tort cases on index cards. It was not that she intended to remember everything: situation—it was her tendency to call intellectual problems 'situation' —slipped into her mind like butter into a bottle."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

There is, nevertheless, a place where you can find it.

1) From “The Way of Man,” by Martin Buber (1950)

“Rabbi Bunam used to tell young men who came to him for the first time the story of Rabbi Eizik, son of Rabbi Yekel of Cracow. After many years of great poverty which had never shaken his faith in God, he dreamed someone bade him look for a treasure in Prague, under the bridge which leads to the king’s palace. When the dream recurred a third time, Rabbi Eizik prepared for the journey and set out for Prague. But the bridge was guarded day and night and he did not dare to start digging. Nevertheless he went to the bridge every morning and kept walking around it until evening. Finally the captain of the guards, which had been watching him, asked in a kindly way whether he was looking for something or waiting for somebody. Rabbi Eizik told him of the dream which had brought him here from a faraway country. The captain laughed: ‘And so to please the dream, you poor fellow wore out your shoes to come here! As for having faith in dreams, if I had had it, I should have had to get going when a dream once told me to go to Cracow and dig for treasure under the stove in the room of a Jew— Eizik, son of Yekel, that was the name! Eizik, son of Yekel! I can just imagine what it would be like, how I should have to try every house over there, where one half of the Jews are named Eizik and the other half Yekel!’ And he laughed again. Rabbi Eizik bowed, traveled home, dug up the treasure from under the stove, and built the House of Prayer which is called ‘Reb Eizik Reb Yekel’s Shul.’

“’Take this story to heart,’ Rabbi Bunam used to add, ‘and make what it says your own: There is something you cannot hind anywhere in the world, not even at the zaddik’s, and there is, nevertheless, a place where you can find it.’”

2) From “The Nature and Aim of Fiction,” by Flannery O’Connor, published in “Mystery and Manners” (1969)

“We hear a great deal of lamentation these days about writers having all taken themselves to the colleges and universities where they live decorously instead of going out and getting first hand information about life. The fact is that anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.”